Buying from an Institutional Owner: It Takes Fortitude!

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An unapproachable institution

“It takes fortitude,” said Anchorage Opera’s former director when I told him I was planning to see the entire Ring cycle by Wagner at Seattle Opera.

The same can be said of you if you want to buy a property from an institutional owner. These include bank foreclosures and homes taken into inventory by relocation companies.

Bethany and I market these properties on a regular basis. So I see what buyers go through when they develop an interest in them.

It’s frustrating for these buyers who are used to dealing with live sellers in our market. They expect an answer right away, and don’t want to mess around with lots of paperwork.

It just doesn’t work that way with institutional owners. They can take days to answer. I’ remember one deal where the owner, for understandable reasons, was nearly a month answering the offer.

The paperwork can be impressive. On the one hand, institutional owners usually provide an Alaska disclosure form that says they don’t know doodely about the property. At the same time, as their real estate representative we may have accumulated lots of stuff, like the entire file of public records on the well and septic systems, for instance. What we know we are required by law to disclose. Part of the purchase process involves the necessity to review and sign for all this information.

Unlike a private seller, an institutional owner has no motivation to hold a property indefinitely.


There is almost always a seemingly baffling multi-page form from the institutional owner that sets forth their own rules of the transaction. It’s in the nature of a counter offer and addendum to the MLS purchase and sale agreement. You need to read the fine print: there may, for instance, be a daily penalty for not closing on time.

These contract provisions mREAHB018ay vary from local practices. You can try to negotiate away something that simply doesn’t work for you, but understand that these clauses are written for use all over the country. The people who handle the process are usually busy asset managers and relocation company counselors. They follow a standard playbook and are usually not inclined to cater to buyer business traditions in Alaska.

It takes fortitude. We sold one property twice and never got it all together because in both cases the buyers got fatoosed (how’s your Yiddish?) when they didn’t get an answer right away and they walked away. Too bad for them: on the third go-around we had four offers and somebody who was more patient got a good deal.

That’s the benefit of buying this type of property. With a little care — and competent professional assistance — you can come up with some pretty good deals. Unlike a private seller, an institutional owner has no motivation to hold a property indefinitely. It’s for sure in a “must sell” mode.